Is Hair Discrimination Real?
Have you ever heard of hair discrimination? Or better, ever experienced it? And if your response is yes, did you experience hair discrimination in the workplace?
For many black and brown people, the answer may be a resounding yes. Often, people are curious about our hair and some have a mindset around "black hair" that it's unprofessional, dirty, and not presentable.
In fact, that's a false narrative that has continued to perpetuate discrimination against black and brown people.
Since 2014, court claims have popped up across the nation from individuals who were terminated (or job offers rescinded) because they refused to change their hair style or type. These individuals pointed to the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, stating that they have suffered racial discrimination based on their termination (due to their hair) but some federal districts refused to provide protection, stating that Title VII doesn't provide such recourse to remedy rights for discrimination based on hair. Furthermore, one federal district stated that an employer has the right to terminate an employee with dreadlocks.
Many states have since passed the "Crown Act" giving additional protection to employees to be free from such discrimination, but it's not National Law. What should you do if you are in a state that does not have a Crown Act on the books?
As an employer:
Seek to learn more about your employees.
Cultivate a safe and inclusive environment where employees can feel they belong and are not singled out because of their hair style or texture.
Remove any type of discriminatory language from work policies that do not account for black and brown hair.
As an Employee:
Notate whether you are being mistreated because of your hair and why? Who occupy the same titles or roles that look different than you, performing the same tasks with the same or similar results but not suffering from adverse treatment the same as you. Why?
Sexual Harassment: Has anyone touched/tugged/pulled your hair and invaded your personal space? Have you repeatedly told someone that you didn't feel comfortable with them touching you? Notate every event.
Religious/Spiritual beliefs: It is historically known that Africans wore their hair in brands, dreadlocks, twists, and a myriad of other ways to symbolize wealth, spirituality, tribe and religious beliefs. As an example and presently, those who practice Rastafarianism wear dreadlocks, believing (as the Bible teaches) that your "Crown" is your glory and thus, creates a religious/spiritual commitment to hair. Have you communicated to your employer that your hair represents your spiritual and religious beliefs? Have you communicated that the way you wear your hair is connected to your culture?
These factors are important to note because Title VII provides protection from discrimination on the basis of race and religion, for example. If you believe that you are suffering a form of retaliation, a deduction in wages, a demotion at work, or termination from work based on your hair, you may have the ability to raise a clear claim linking it to race and religion - clear Title VII protections.
For support on creating non-discriminatory policies or to file a claim for discrimination, visit sldebarros.com or call us to schedule your consultation.